Undertaking behavior is an essential adaptation to social life that is critical for colony hygiene in enclosed nests. Social insects dispose of dead individuals in various fashions to prevent further contact between corpses and living members in a colony. Focusing on three groups of eusocial insects (bees, ants, and termites) in two phylogenetically distant orders (Hymenoptera and Isoptera), we review mechanisms of death recognition, convergent and divergent behavioral responses toward dead individuals, and undertaking task allocation from the perspective of division of labor. Distinctly different solutions (e.g., corpse removal, burial and cannibalism) have evolved, independently, in the holometabolous hymenopterans and hemimetabolous isopterans toward the same problem of corpse management. In addition, issues which can lead to a better understanding of the roles that undertaking behavior has played in the evolution of eusociality are discussed.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Sun, Qian and Zhou, Xuguo, "Corpse Management in Social Insects" (2013). Entomology Faculty Publications. 46.